First Drive: 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid

The Toyota Camry Hybrid—which combines comfort, reliability and good fuel economy—is the second best selling hybrid in 2008. We had an opportunity to drive the 2009 model to get first-hand experience with the drivability and fuel consumption of this carryover sedan.

The Camry Hybrid is powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 147 horsepower and 138 pound-feet of torque. It’s also equipped with a 40-horsepower electric motor, bringing the total output to 187 horsepower, which is more than enough for virtually all traffic and driving conditions. The Camry Hybrid never feels short on power, and grants near-perfect throttle response. This is ideal for highway on-ramps, and launches from zero when you really need to get going. At the same time, the Camry is smooth as silk in low speed conditions. It’s a controlled and balanced four-door vehicle, slotting comfortably between family sedan and sports sedan.

Government fuel economy for the new Camry is 33 in the city and 34 on the highway. To test its real world efficiency, we took the Camry Hybrid on a 122-mile round-trip journey from Aberdeen, Maryland to York, Pennsylvania and back. The mixed driving route was comprised of small town roads, two-lane byways and country roads, and approximately 40 miles on Interstate 83. We achieved combined gas mileage of 35.2 miles per gallon, slightly exceeding government estimates.

The Camry offers a well-placed center console screen found within the gauge cluster, and directly behind the steering wheel, allowing the driver to easily keep track of how the hybrid powertrain is operating. (It’s not like the Prius’s touch-screen monitor in the middle of the dashboard, which some drivers believe is distracting and misplaced.)

The Camry’s monitor uses animation to represent the gas engine, the electric power, and the regenerative braking, as well as an arrow indicating the flow of energy—two arrows when the gas engine and electric motor are working in conjunction. To the left of this display is an analog-style consumption meter displaying the instantaneous miles per gallon reading. (These instantaneous readings are rarely useful in any hybrid because the quickly dart from low numbers to high numbers and back again.)

In terms of handling, the Camry is more than competent. It corners well and offers plenty of driver feedback—as we experienced on the switchback roads of northern Maryland and southern Pennsylvania. But the Camry is best known for its ride quality. It offers a smooth and compliant feel that makes it ideal for long trips and daily commuting. Furthermore, the transition from gas engine to electric motor and back again, is one of the most seamless we’ve seen in any hybrid to date.

All in all, the 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid hasn’t changed much from last year’s model. And that’s a good thing.

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  • Bryce

    Nice, now lets see some reviews of the 2009 editions of the Altima, Fusion, and Malibu/Aura. Maybe a nice comparative article summing them all up after they are all done.

  • Why is Bryce always first?

    Toyota making good moves as usual. Where are the Americans?

  • Need2Change

    The price is reasonable and not that different from a Prius. A premium package with leather and nav is around $30K.

    However, the 33-35 mpg is a little disappointing, and I hate the fixed side mirrors.

    For the near term, I’ll keep driving my Chrysler 300M. I average about 24 mpg — and the 300M is paid for. There’s not enough mpg savings or driving excitement for me to put down $5K, trade in my 300M, and pay $400/month for five years.

  • CLD

    How is 33 – 35 mpg disappointing for a large mid-size car? To compare, your 300M uses 4.2 gallons of gasoline every 100 miles. A Prius uses 2.2 gallons every 100 miles, and a Camry Hybrid uses 2.9 gallons every 100 miles–or only 0.7 gallons more than the Prius. In other words, the Prius provides only a little more than half the fuel savings compared to the Camry Hybrid than the Camry Hybrid provides over the 300M. Having owned both a Prius and a Camry Hybrid, I am astonished by how good the fuel economy is for such a large car.

  • steved28

    If you are getting 24mpg in a 300M than the Camry hybrid would be in the 40’s
    But you are right, a hybrid really makes sense when you “need” a new car and were going to buy new anyway.

  • steved28

    Bryce, the Altima wont change for 09. They only sell it in 8 states and it’s leased Toyota technology. It was, and remains, Nissan’s stepping stone to their own HEV, PHEV technology. It is a good car though, I prefer it over the Camry.

  • Shines

    Once again Toyota sets the standards high.
    I’ll look for the Camry, Malibu,Fusion,Altima,Sonata… comparison in a future Consumer Reports.

  • Big Dave

    The mileage seems low to me. I have a 2007 Camry Hybrid, and usually get around 38 MPG, and I am by no means a hyper miler.

  • Bryce

    lol, I have been noticing that lately too. Why am I first…..I am not quite sure, I guess I check this site too regularly. I should restric myself to maybe once a day or something. It will be difficult though.


    Do you know whether Nissan’s hybrid situation was the same as Ford’s, or was it a different story. Ford was developing a hybrid drivetrain, but it ended up being ridiculously similar to Toyota’s and to avoid lawsuits and what not, they licensed it temporarily for the Escape. Was Nissan in development and found themselves in a similar situation, or are they simply using this to hold themselves over until their own comes out. I am curious of the circumstances of the Altima. It seems so well integrated.

  • Giant

    I have a TCH too, and until I got new tires (the original equiment ones wore out quickly), I was getting 40 mpg. Now I get around 36-37 mpg.

  • steved28

    Bryce, Nissan did not develop the technology as Ford did. It looks like they suddenly woke up one day, and changed their entire focus, but were too late to the party. So they made a quick deal with Toyota (using their own engine) and are now vigorously trying to catch up. The word is they lose money on every NAH. But that was part of the bigger plan to become a player. And perhaps to test the waters (which may be why they only sell in the 8 most aggressive sates).

    Even when I bought mine in 07, the sales guy said they plan to have a PHEV of their own design by 2010. That statement coming from a salesman sort of told me this was the word at Nissan passed from the top down (how many salesmen would make a statement like that? Most actually try to steer you away from a hybrid)

  • Bryce

    That’s what I thought. That is interesting. Well, the best of luck to them. they integrated the hybrid drivetrain well into the Altima and I would expect good followups in things of their own design. good old capitalism is giving us all these new options on the hybrid market and I am really excited about the next few model cycles coming out of just about all of the auto makers. : )

  • JH

    We own a TCH too – and the mileage came advertised as 33/35 or something like that and I must say we’ve always gotten between 38 to 40 mpg.

    I must say I like the space and the handling of the sedan as well.

  • rlintacoma

    I have owned several Camry’s and I am very pleased with my new 09 Hybrid. It is like adding ice cream to a really good birthday cake. All of my Camry’s have been solid cars, and in the case of my SE, even fun to drive. But now I am also getting 35 to 38 mpg on my commute, which involves mixed street and freeway. I have no trouble getting sufficient speed to enter freeways or to pass if necessary. The best part of the Camry hybrid however is all the instant feedback on MPG, which keeps me thinking about my speed and my starts more so than anything has before.

  • Bobfl

    I have owned a Camry Hybrid for over two years and I get over 40 mpg most of the time. My record for a tank was 46.7 mpg last Summer. The ride, handling and performance are outstanding and I think its the best car I have ever owned. The worst tank ever was 35.3 running 75-80 on the way to Florida.

  • Bob Jacson

    Toyota is loking even better for 2009, keep it going

  • Bryce

    hopefully they improved the interior this year.

  • Stan

    My wife’s Camry Hybrid is one year old with 15,000 miles. Her car has a lifetime average of 36.8 MPG. She’s an average driver, not a “hypermiler”. It’s not unusual for her to see 40+ higway MPG!

    The new govt. estimates are much more accurate than the old. I have read that they actually underestimate most hybrid’s actual MPG statistics.

    My wife’s car is “loaded” (the promotional ’50th Anniversary Edition’) and she LOVES it! But I agree with a previous post that the side mirrors should be retractable.

  • Bryce

    I would rather the estimates be lower than real world numbers than higher that way instead of being disappointed, I am actually impressed by the numbers that my car returns to me. : )